Increase the Nutrient Density of Your Diet with Fall Harvest Vegetables
by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
When we talk about a fertility friendly diet, we emphasize the importance
of nutrient density - in other words, maximizing the vitamin and mineral
content of your diet. What does that mean for your diet? It means eating
whole and real foods and minimizing refined and processed foods, which
have had most of their nutrients removed. The fall is an excellent time
of year to practice focusing on nutrient density, as there is such a wide
variety of produce in season. Here's a sampling of what's in season
now, and what fertility friendly nutrients they contain:
Butternut squash, pumpkin, carrots, and sweet potatoes
These orange vegetables are rich in beta-carotene that gives them their
orange color. Beta-carotene is the plant form of vitamin A, which acts
as an antioxidant and may be helpful for neutralizing free radicals that
would otherwise damage eggs and sperm. You may have heard that vitamin
A can be toxic at high levels during pregnancy. This is true, but does
not apply to beta-carotene. Only pre-formed vitamin A from animal products
and certain supplements has the potential to cause birth defects when
intake is too high. Beta-carotene is better absorbed from food when served
with fat. Roasted vegetables with some fat or drizzle olive oil over steamed
As the hot summer days give way to cooler temperatures, leafy greens become
more widely available again at farmer's markets. These include spinach,
chard, and kale. These leafy greens, like the orange vegetables, are a
great source of beta-carotene. You can't see the beta-carotene, because
the orange is masked by the green chlorophyll. These greens are also a
great source of vitamin C, which is a potent antioxidant. Vitamin C may
also help support progesterone levels in those with low progesterone.
Vitamin C may also help prevent DNA damage to eggs as they mature.
Leafy greens are also good sources of folate, important for preventing
neural tube defects. Leafy greens also provide magnesium. Magnesium deficiency
has been linked to infertility in some studies.
The cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and
kale are also in season in the fall. These vegetables are a good source
of magnesium, folate, and indole-3-carbinol, a phytonutrient that may
help balance estrogen levels. Cruciferous vegetables are best eaten cooked.
Try roasting broccoli in the oven, or sauté kale with mushrooms
for a savory side dish.